July 22, 2016 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #272


Snow White and the Seven Music Professors. Some readers may be familiar with the Samuel Goldwyn film with Danny Kaye entitled A Song Is Born (1948), which was a remake of the Gary Cooper/Barbara Stanwyck screwball comedy Ball of Fire (1941). Both films were directed by Howard Hawks and produced by Goldwyn.

mayo68Goldwyn originally wanted the film to be a sort of live action version of Disney’s Snow White. Bascially, the storyline is seven quirky bachelor music professors (plus the Cooper/Kaye character who is supposed to be the prince who rescues the damsel in distress) working on an encyclopedia of music who have their comfortable lives invaded by a hard-edged female who is hiding out from the authorities and introduces them to popular music since their expertise is classical music.

For Ball of Fire, the publicity department staged a portrait of the seven actors playing the professors seated in front of a poster for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with each in the same position as the dwarf he represented: S.Z. Sakall – Dopey; Leonid Kinskey – Sneezy; Richard Haydn – Bashful; Henry Travers – Sleepy; Aubrey Mather – Happy; Tully Marshall – Grumpy; and Oskar Homolka – Doc.

“It actually was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – with the striptease dancer as Snow White,” said Hawks in the book Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors by Peter Bogdanovich.

For A Song Is Born, Goldwyn went so far as to correspond with Disney to get permission to use the “Heigh Ho” song from the Disney film. Disney denied permission and other direct references to the Seven Dwarfs were eliminated as a host of uncredited writers tried to rework the original screenplay.

beatriceSpongeBetty. The March 12, 2016 episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, actress Betty White portrayed Beatrice, the owner of the store “Grandma’s Apron”.

“Like SpongeBob, Betty White is a comedy icon,” said supervising producers Vincent Waller and Marc Ceccarelli. “Also like SpongeBob, she looks fantastic in shorts and tube shorts. Just under the surface of this polite, dignified lady, she revealed to us a whip-smart, bawdy gal who could make a room full of Navy men — or in this case, a room full of cartoonists and actors — blush to a deep shade of crimson.”

marvel-brouchure1Stan Lee Loved Grantray-Lawrence. The following is from an interview that Marvel legend Stan Lee did for Ted White in Castle of Frankenstein magazine Volume 3, Number 4 (whole number 12) in 1968 where he commented on the then recent The Marvel Superheroes syndicated cartoon series:

“They give me the storyboards and I take them home with me and check them. I’m actually, I guess you might say, the story editor of the TV series. They shoot the actual picture and all that they animate is opening the mouths and shutting and opening the eyes and moving the arms and legs….but it’s the basic drawing that we’ve got there. I don’t see how anything could be more faithful to the original artwork. Now naturally, they had to make some little changes. I’ve had experience with other people who’ve taken properties. They usually don’t even bother with the people whose property they’ve taken. They just go out on their own.

“This particular outfit, Grantray-Lawrence, they’ve been an absolute joy to work with. They check with us on everything and they’re tremendously anxious to keep to the spirit of our own strips and stories. I couldn’t be more satisfied with what they’ve been doing. They’re trying their best to keep it in the style for better or worse, the style we have in our books.

“That type of animation doesn’t bother me. I think it has a certain charm. In many ways I think I prefer that to full animation which can ruin a human-type character. It’s so hard to animate a human being. Technically, I think this is very interesting. The way they’re doing our show. I’m delighted with that. I wouldn’t have been happy if it were animated like, you know, like Mickey Mouse….just regular animation.”

The_Itchy_and_Scratchy_ShowItchy and Scratchy and Tex Avery. Matt Groening in an interview in Advance Comics #50 (1992) stated, “Itchy and Scratchy came from something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid. I was always watching cat and mouse cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Pixie and Dixie and all the rest of those cartoons and I thought it would be fun to do a cartoon that really was totally violent. When we got a chance to do it, we went back and looked at Bob Clampett and Tex Avery and all the rest of those guys too, although I’m not comparing our work to those greats. People who go into animtion generally like the wildest stuff ever done, and you would definitely have to go back to those guys. I’ve been hanging out with John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren and Stimpy and that’s like seeing one of the old guys in action again. It’s just incredible.”

After Bill Scott. Mark Evanier needs to write an anecdotal autobiography. In the last days of his life, Jay Ward was telling people that if Rocky and Bullwinkle ever got revived as a series that Mark Evanier was the only writer around that he felt could do the job. This was not based on his ever seeing anything that Mark had written.

It was based on a recommendation from Bill Scott who co-produced Ward shows, wrote many of them and did voices for characters like Bullwinkle. Mark had worked with Scott (and voice artist Frank Welker) on a live-action script for Dudley Do-Right and with Scott on another unmade cartoon project. Scott liked Mark’s work so much that he told Ward that if anything happened to him, he wanted Evanier to do scripts and Welker to take over the voice of Bullwinkle.

Welker did do the voice of Bullwinkle in several Taco Bell spots, with Joe Alaskey as Boris, Corey Burton the narrator and June Foray as Rocky and Natasha:

Lost Disney Parody. Disney has always been a popular target for parody, especially in MAD magazine. The success of MAD led to a variety of similar magazines including COCKEYED from Whitestone Publications of Louisville, Kentucky. In Volume 1, Number 5 of the magazine released in June 1956, is a five page text and illustration parody of Walt Disney’s True Life Adventures series entitled “Disney Gets the Bird” with artwork by Bob Powell and writing by Bob Bean and Don Mullen.



  • Pickiness: In the original “Ball of Fire”, the professors are working on a dictionary. When they discovered their cloistered existence has left them ignorant of current slang, Cooper is sent out into the world to gather subjects for interview. Stanwyck is not quite a stripper but a racy nightclub singer. She DID play a stripper in “Lady of Burlesque”, a murder mystery credited to Gypsy Rose Lee.

    The remake changed it to an encyclopedia of music, justifying big jazz and swing names.

    Richard Haydn, of course, found his way to Disney as the voice of the Caterpillar in “Alice and Wonderland”, and later as a gold-hunting Shakespearean in “Bullwhip Griffin.” Funny that they list him as “Bashful” — in the film, he’s a widower and looked to as the only one with any practical experience of women.

    • And of course, Richard Haydn got imitated in animation millions of times, most notable for “The Alvin Show” (1961-1962 original showing, 1962-1965 reruns, all on CBS), by Shep Menken, as Clyde Crashcup, who invented such novel things as the pencil, the show, running water, dinosaurs and even the wife!

    • I was always intrigued by Clyde Crashcup (is there a joke in the name I’m missing?). The whole notion of inventing stuff that obviously existed made me wonder just where the heck they lived. That and the magic pencil — never described as such — made it Different.

      One began with Clyde and Leonardo watching TV. One would lie down and the other sit on his back; then they’d change places. Clyde was inspired to invent chairs. He failed. In the end they sat on top of the TV itself, watching the reflection of the screen in a mirror. There was something almost intellectual going on there.

    • “One began with Clyde and Leonardo watching TV. One would lie down and the other sit on his back; then they’d change places. Clyde was inspired to invent chairs. He failed. In the end they sat on top of the TV itself, watching the reflection of the screen in a mirror. There was something almost intellectual going on there.”

      It really was! Reminded the final thing Clyde says to the audience was “Remember folks, the patent is pending!”

    • Reminded of another Clyde Crashcup episode about electricity, with him and Leonard trying to harness it with a kite or something. In the end, they come back into the house with Clyde giving his thoughts of failure on part of the experiment shown, but then tells Leonardo to turn off the light he just turned on as they went inside!

    • In my youth I watched the movie “Sitting Pretty” – the first film with Clifton Webb as Mr. Belvedere – and Haydn played an eccentric neighbor who pollinated his flowers by hand, I remember standing bolt-upright and saying “That’s Clyde Crashcup!”
      I wonder if Ross Bagdasarian originally wanted Haydn to do Clyde’s voice, but couldn’t afford him and hired Shepard Menken to imitate him?
      Clyde had his own comic book, written by John Stanley. In one issue, Clyde was in search of the perfect stereo for the most realistic reproduction of sound – which neatly parodied the attitude of many “audiophiles.”

  • Interesting. I wonder who did the voices of Bullwinkle J Moose, Boris Badenov and the narrator after the deaths of Bill Scott, Paul Frees and William Conrad (before he became more famous as Cannon) Frank Welker did a real good job as Bullwinkle as well as the late Joe Alaskey as Boris and Corey Burton as a sound alike for William Conrad as the narrator. I wonder if there’s going to be a future works for Rocky and Bullwinkle with Frank Welker,Corey Burton (he should do Boris Badenov’s voice as well as the narrator and June Foray (even though she’s now approaching the century mark) as the voices?

    • Corey Burton seemed to be the go-to guy for Paul Frees and Hans Conried voices. When Stan Freberg recorded a sequel to his “United States of America” album, decades after the original, he hired Burton to imitate Frees, who narrated the first USA album and had passed by then.

    • Geez,the throwaway line that Bill Conrad didn’t achieve true fame until Cannon left my head scratching. Sure much of his work was invisible,but for radio,he toiled form the early ’40s as an acting voice, Most notably as Matt Dillon,the central figure of the CBS western,Gunsmoke. He also had a decent acting career in feature films. In many ways,Cannon was merely his fourth act,as for his third act he was also involved in movie production and direction for Warner Bros. in the ’60s.

  • I’ve seen “Ball of Fire”. Kind of an interested idea but the gimmick loses its freshness about halfway through the movie and they felt the need to add an “outrun the mob” plot to keep things exciting.

    Who animated those Rocky & Bullwinkle commercials?

  • I thought perhaps I’d read somewhere that Itchy & Scratchy was mostly inspired by Herman & Katnip.

    • Famous Studios had a peculiar knack for making slapstick a little more painful and unpleasant, even as their cartoons became more aggressively cute and juvenile. Instead of the fast, funny reactions of other studios, Famous characters would display semi-conscious agony or otherwise remind you they were hurting. So while they weren’t more graphic than Warner or MGM, they had a sick joke vibe of their own. I wouldn’t be surprised Herman and Katnip were indeed the inspirations.

  • Interesting to read Stan Lee’s comments about the 1960’s MARVEL SUPER HEROES series. No, this is not classic animation at its finest, but the voice work in those cartoons is fantastic. To me, it was like someone being interested in reading comics to me each afternoon. I would buy a complete collection of these just to enjoy them as “radio drama”, in much the same vein as the old SUPERMAN radio serials, and I dimly remember the overall look of the animation, colors and all, being very faithful to the comics panels. Sure, the theme songs to most of these were rather campy, but I still found them fun. I know I’m among the minority here, but perhaps you can see where I’m coming from…

    As for Matt Groening’s vision of ITCHY AND SCRATCHY as his answer to Tex Avery or Jim Tyer cartoon takes, I wonder if he ever saw National Lampoon’s KIT AND KABOODLE, where the panels are spent watching the cat and mouse literally hacking each other to pieces, replete with blood spattered all over the place! He also never mentioned HERMAN AND KATNIP which was the closest to the afore-mentioned National Lampoon parody I’d ever seen, minus the bleeding, but Famous Studios could pull that off while still keeping the cartoons entertaining. And, of course, Tex Avery remains one of the greats. Please give us a DVD set of THE COMPLETE TEX AVERY!! I know my pleas are falling on deaf ears, save for preaching to the choir, like-minded ears who put together this webpage, but I feel I have to say it anyway!

  • I had always gotten the impression that Itchy & Scratchy were (definitive) spoofs of Herman & Katnip….as even THEY were more graphic than T&J, etc.

  • That R & B miniseries Evanier scripted for IDW a few years ago was godawful.

    Jack Mendelsohn should be the go-to guy for any further escapades with Moose and Squirrel.

    • I disagree. I thought it was decent. Then again, I like Roger Langridge’s art.

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